Pasadena, California, also known as the City of Roses or just Dena to some, is one of the most culturally diverse suburbs of Los Angeles. In many ways, Pasadena has grown beyond the category of the suburbs as it has suburbs of its own, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Arcadia, and Monrovia can all be considered suburbs of the Rose City. Too many of us who were born and raised in Pasadena (I'm talking to those of you from Altadena too), we call it home regardless of where we rest our heads now. To others, who've moved to Pasadena later in life, you're still discovering the many different cultural pockets which reside in this city.
The intersection of Washington Blvd and Lake Ave serves as a de facto hub of what is considered East Pasadena. The Food 4 Less shopping center on one corner, a string of shops including a billiard hall and barbershop rest directly across the street. Diagonal, you'll find the neighborhood gas station and Coin laundromat across from that. For myself, growing up right down the street on Washington and Marengo, I could find everything I needed at that intersection. My family shopped at that Food 4 Less, I did my laundry at the laundromat and got my haircut at Just In Time Too. If you keep going past Marengo you reach Washington and Fair Oaks, another central intersection. There you'll find another laundromat, local staple Louisiana Fried Chicken, La Pintoresca Park and its library (one of my favorite places as a kid) and lastly the large King's Village apartment complex. To those who've recently settled in Pasadena, or those just visiting, this area surrounding Fair Oaks, Lake, and Washington may be considered the hood. However, to many of us, it's considered home.
Keep heading west on Washington from Fair Oaks and you'll start to see the neighborhood transforming. The closer you edge to Lincoln Ave, the more upscale buildings begin to become. Once you cross Lincoln, it's almost as if you're in a different city entirely. Gone are the apartment buildings, replaced by quaint little homes. Gone are the laundromats and grocery stores, instead you'll find Cleveland Elementary School. No more gated fences, but rather manicured lawns. By the time you reach Arroyo, things have seemingly transformed once again. Quaint homes have become two and three-story manors. Large and lush Oak trees line the sidewalk and not a single piece of litter is to be found as you overlook the view that is the Rose Bowl.
Head east on Washington from Lake and you'll see a similar transformation happening. Again you'll begin to see less and less apartment building and more homes, though the apartment lifestyle isn't completely lost. You find more deli's, Mexican restaurants, hookah bars, and Pasadena's finest–Sandwiches by Connals. This part of the city stands out for its wide variety of foods, shops, and culture. It serves as a central point, or melting pot, for all the variety of cultures which can be found in the wonderful Rose City. Whether they be Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, White, or Black, you can find seemingly every culture on this stretch of Washington between Lake and Altadena.
In a short drive down Washington, only four miles, we get a small sampling of how diverse the city really is. Multiple different cultures, ethnicities, and income brackets all living literally side by side interacting on a daily basis, and this was just one street. Go north on Lake or south on Fair Oaks and you'll see more changes, more pockets of people living in their own little neighborhoods. From the Rose Bowl to Domenico's Pizza, don't forget to pause and appreciate the city in which you live in.
Darryl Oliver III is a sixth-grade assistant teacher in the Los Angeles area. He graduated from Oregon State University with a BA in English and is currently working towards receiving his MA in History. He grew up locally in Pasadena, CA and promptly returned after completing his undergraduate. When he’s not teaching he enjoys reading, writing, and playing basketball.